This summer, I went to the emergency room for a coronavirus test and was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic cancer.
Annabel Gurvich / NOW
05 There is a medical term for an unforeseen finding not related to the initial medical consultation, it is known as “incidloma”. I am one of the third Americans to avoid medical visits during a pandemic, either out of fear of the virus or out of concern about cost. For both of these reasons, I ignored a minor but persistent cough and learned of the diagnosis only because my doctor did not offer testing and because a long queue at the Dodger Stadium’s travel center forced me to go to the clinic. Anyone in a small mall where they persuaded me to do an x-ray, something I assumed was the emergency medical equivalent of the persuasion to buy a more expensive product over the counter.
My 22-year-old son and I were driving home when the car broke down. My phone rang while I waited for the tow truck on the dusty shoulder of the highway. “I’m very sorry,” said the emergency doctor. “I told him he was fine with his x-ray, but he wasn’t hers. He has an anxious mass in his lungs, “he said.
After nearly two months of speculation, scans, antibiotics, and more specialized scans of an oil-sized lump that doctors thought was an old injury caused by pneumonia or some other minor problem. I was hoping it was valley fever, a fungal infection that usually heals on its own, and it sounded fun, like something that Moon Zappa would sing about in the ’80s. Eventually I learned that it was a malignant tumor the size of a clementine with cancerous nodules in both lungs. When they talk to you about citrus, it’s a bad sign.
During this time, my mental health deteriorated. I was so late with the writing deadlines that I was on the verge of losing my book contract. I was involved in a car accident that was not my fault, but caused me too much grief to go again. I lost my finances, and in one of the worst moments of my adult life, in the middle of the night, a man without a mask appeared in my house and seized my car for non-payment in the eyes of my son and my neighbors.
The congressional coronavirus package prevented evictions and forgave some loans other than car loans, and millions of Americans were forced to miss some payments. I agreed to return the car, but the impact on my credit rating was devastating.
Early attention to COVID-19 reduces its danger
I was also one of 12.7 million Americans who, according to the Institute for Economic Policy, lost their health insurance provided by their workplace or family member this spring. I went from paying my employer and union a $ 600 a year family bonus plan to a $ 1,000 a month plan that covers my son and me. Were it not for a subsidy for the Affordable Care Act, the premium would have been $ 600 more expensive. I am not sure that the subsidy will continue, it all depends on what fate awaits us.
The diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer never comes at the right time, but in America you may find yourself telling your new cancer partners, “I’m so lucky to have been diagnosed with cancer in January.” A diagnosis like the one in September means that I will reach the annual maximum of the current expenses of my plan as soon as I start counting the next calendar year.
Lung cancer, when the virus that attacks the lungs is spreading across the planet, is actually a double exacerbation. I can’t read the facial expressions of the new caregivers and doctors I depend on because they wear masks, and I wonder how it affects them that they haven’t seen my face yet. Most providers do not allow patients to attend appointments or procedures. Do you know when it seems most important to be close to friends and family? When you are diagnosed with an incurable disease. And yet Rush Limba, a conservative radio host with whom I never hoped to have anything to do, said of the health problems caused by lung cancer, which he also suffers from: “Mine are not easier and mine are no different and are not special than anyone. It can feel like a roller coaster. “
They estimate the end of 2020 with more than a million deaths
I’m lucky to have an extensive support network, but I’ve learned that when you tell people you have cancer, they want to give you things, except that they’re usually not what you really need. My dear friend turned out to be kind enough to buy me a juicer, but I don’t have the energy to use it, and what I really wanted was a soft woolen blanket. Now the juicer is in my kitchen like a bad guy to remind me of everything I don’t measure, in this case, that I didn’t make juice.
A gift package from AstraZeneca, a company that specializes in targeted gene therapy, which I am now taking, appeared on my doorstep. I was hoping it was a Groupon face care coupon, as one of the side effects of the drug could be acne, but no, it was a pill with capitalized days so that adults could read them without difficulty. If he didn’t feel like he was ten, that’s right.
I was asked to pray for myself, antioxidant supplements and words that describe me as strong, I just don’t want anyone to see me as a warrior fighting cancer, or a crazy sex resin, even those who are forced to flourish with cancer. . This “prosperous” sounds exhausting. Am I already devoting myself to something where there is a lot of competition and now I also have to make great strides with cancer?
My health is stable and the oncologist is telling me that this is good news for long-term treatment. I went back to work and exercise, although I wrote to my neighbor last night because I was so tired I couldn’t open the bottle of Gatorade. Could you please help me?
“I know it doesn’t look good,” I said, “but I have good news: the drug works, the tumors shrink!”
“So how long will you have to take them?” he asked.
“For life,” I replied.
Silence. Chronic illness threatens to turn you into one of the most disgusting social outcasts, Debbie Downer, a Saturday Night Live character who can make someone bitter.
But there is a great chance that science will find a cure. While this virus survives. But you know me, I’m a warrior … from cancer. “
Last week, I called Becky, a social worker and cancer therapist, with whom I was lucky enough to talk once a week. I explained my situation to him. The drug I take daily costs $ 500 per dose. I apply for a subsidy, but only if I continue to buy a premium insurance plan. Other people in my cancer support group with smaller plans say they spend $ 1,000 to $ 3,000 a month.
“I’m very lucky that the therapy promises that I will live longer,” I said, “but am I the only one who wonders if it wouldn’t be better if it ended sooner?” I don’t want to be a burden to my family. “
“No,” he sighed. “They talk to me all day.”
I was lucky to find myself in the situation I am in today. If it weren’t for COVID-19, the cancer probably wouldn’t have been diagnosed and spread even further, so apparently the coronavirus saved my life. Or maybe it’s an exaggeration, and the pandemic has extended my life. I was lucky enough to have the intuition of a doctor in an emergency clinic in a small mall. I was lucky that there were scientific achievements. But I will need more to pay for the lifelong care that this diagnosis requires.
Who wants a new juicer? It is not used and I am ready to give it to you at a good price.